I could not figure out why my very bright younger daughter got so depressed Christmas shopping yesterday. So we had a very private talk this morning. She told me that she has known that Father Christmas does not exist for half of her eight years at least. However, she plays along with the game for the adults who would be disappointed if we knew that. At the same time her older sister who is less capable of such thought does believe so, thus she has to buy the exact present that appears on the list and no other, which we did not find yesterday and settled for second best. To boot she did not buy mother anything and now has to go out again. She does not mind playing the game but finds the 'rules' hard because they are made by adults and about an adult who does not exist. I tried explaining metaphors and customs, which she accepted and then said to me that all customs are just made up as people go along and are different in every family. That absolutely gob smacked me because it is about as close as can be to true and I spent many years in university having that drummed into my skull.

OK, it is on the surface a bit of a serious take on Christmas and the old boy with his "Ho-ho-ho" but in reality I find it quite touching and realised that she has scratched on the sheer commercialism of the event. To boot she took to Buddha when she was two without any influence whatsover from us and has looked hard at that religion and for her the existence of gods is now a no-no, sum ergo the Jesus story just another interesting legend. We do not encourage or discourage her and observe very discretely. It is interesting though, that in her tender childhood she is acting out and to some extent enjoying the season and like every other child looking forward to the 'loot' but she is so aware of what a fraud it is. We make a joyous event of Christmas with a merger of different ones we had from our own childhoods, thus very pan European and then I throw in a very Scots Hogmannay a week later which 60 years ago still meant much, much more than Christmas for my Scots family. My wife and I like this festive week, as we indeed like all festive periods and make a kind of holiday of it as best we can, for instance reduce or do no work at all.

How is it for others? Are other people's children working out the commercialisation and thus the end of the old magic? If so, is there a solution? We would dearly love at least a bit more of that magic back and a sense of occasion rather than material gain.